Friday, March 29, 2002
MAGIC study of transportation plows ahead
A new chapter in the continuing saga of the Magic Carpet transportation study unfolded at MAGIC's March meeting in Boxboro. Officially called the Subregional Area Study, the work was requested by MAGIC, under the Transportation Planning and Programming Committee (TTPC) of the Metropolitan Planning Office (MPO), and is being conducted by the Central Transportation Planning Office (CTPS). (Refer to glossary frequently.)
Phase I of the study was approved in June 2000. It provided "an overview of the 12 MAGIC communities (Acton, Bedford, Bolton, Boxborough, Carlisle, Concord, Hudson, Lexington, Lincoln, Littleton, Maynard and Stow) with respect to transportation-related issues such as growth in population and jobs, traffic volumes and congestion points, currently available transit and paratransit services, and study needs identified by the MAGIC communities themselves," according to a recent MPO report. The Phase I final draft report in January 2002 reflects the input from MAGIC communities, town planners, engineers and managers, identifies potential study items and attempts to prioritize these items by both CTPS and MAGIC.
Phase II has condensed that list to five items: 1) a follow-up to the 1999 park-ride studies with emphasis on identifying additional park-ride options; 2) interim access options for the South Acton train station; 3) Concord-Sudbury bikeway update; 4) "congested intersection" analysis at Massachusetts Avenue/Pleasant Street and Massachusetts Avenue/Maple Street in Lexington. After a vigorous discussion of the four recommendations, it was decided to focus on only the first two, the park and ride options and improved access for the South Acton train station. Richard Canale, representing Lexington, commented that "These are good items, but I'm not sure the priorities are the same." Mary McShane, who is managing the project for CTPS and presented the recommendations for Phase II, said the change in focus would mean repricing and rewriting the Phase II report, and added that she would do it and get back to MAGIC. She added that the report needs to come before MPO's SSC in April, which puts CTPS in an uncomfortably tight time frame to do the job well.
Seeking direction through SWOT
SWOT, an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, is a tool for self assessment of MAGIC's past and future functions, leading to possible changes in procedures, activities, subject matter focus, representation, and other factors affecting MAGIC's success as an organization. The group sees the "strength of MAGIC is the strength of small towns" that "try and look at what's best locally in the bigger picture." One member was "just not sure who else is there to do it."
Indeed, MAGIC towns have long been frustrated by the overcentralization that one member called "the Boston-centered view of the world." A need for regional concerns to be recognized by state agencies who too frequently "begin to believe in their own infallibility" and "to confuse what they do with how they do it" continues to exist for MAGIC communities. Although the group notes its achievements in successful collaboration on area concerns, and recognizes that there is effective planning, they also see there is no two-way plan. When local issues overwhelm towns and the region (cell towers, development, school and highway funding , and the strain on infrastructure the rapidly developing I-495 area), larger issues such as water (there is not enough water along 495 to serve its growth potential), transportation, zoning change are lost without some overall responsibility for regional planning, e.g., each town's traffic study stops at its borders. The concensus of the selectmen and planners who regularly attend the monthly MAGIC meetings was that the state needs to take responsibility for such an overall plan backed up by the authority to implement it
Ironically, the SWOT meeting identified the proliferation of acronyms, "pictorial patterns of relationship among alphabet soup" as a problem in establishing the kind of two-way communication that is requisite if local problems are to be recognized.
Carlisle was not represented at the meeting.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito